MUSTAFA KIRIKÇIOĞLU @MKirikcioglu – Daily Sabah
Any speculation suggesting that there is a shift in Ankara’s political and military alignment is “totally baseless,” a top NATO official said yesterday, amid increasing U.S. threats on Turkey’s decision to procure weapons from other countries with the pretext of risking the NATO alliance. “NATO is the organization that Turkey has been playing an important role in for the last 67 years. Turkey’s political and security orientation with NATO has been remaining the same as it has been reaffirmed by numerous recent official statements,” Assistant Secretary-General of NATO Tacan İldem said at a panel in Ankara. He added that there is no way for the bloc to impose any decision against a country’s will, as “it is a sovereign nation with its own choice to take part in NATO.”
Discussions on Turkey’s position in NATO have been sporadically warmed up by some political circles and lobbies in Washington as well as some specific media outlets. It generally has been prompted by frequent statements by the U.S. administration, in which it has voiced concern over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia and urging Ankara to abandon its agreement with Moscow. “Eliminating risks that could harm NATO allies” is used as pretext for the demand, although the military bloc, and other member states previously indicated that the S-400 acquisition is Turkey’s national decision.
Speaking at the meeting, Burhanettin Duran, a political science professor at Ibn Khaldun University, said that U.S.’s indifferent attitude forced Turkey to find other ways to handle serious security threats, “However, it doesn’t mean that Turkey seeks another alliance.”
“Turkey sometimes criticizes the global world order and Western countries or the U.S. role on a global scale, but comments on axis change are black propaganda,” he said.
Turkey’s region abounds with ballistic missile proliferation and rogue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, as well as increasing terror threats by groups in northern Syria, including Daesh and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the latter being the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, a terrorist group designated as such by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. In due consideration of regional and global developments that pose grave risks to its national security, Turkey decided to meet its need for an air defense system from Russia and inked a $2.5 billion deal with Moscow in December 2017 after the U.S. repeatedly rejected selling Patriot missiles to Turkey.
Regarding S-400 discussions Nurşin Güney, a professor of international relations from Bahçeşehir Cyprus University, emphasized Ankara’s need to protect its air space and to have deterrence against threats emanating from state and non-state actors in the fragile region. “Both conventional and unconventional threats pointing at Turkey differentiate in quite unpredictable and dangerous security environment. On behalf of Turkey, we expect empathy from our allies,” she said.
Turkey became a NATO member in 1952 as part of the first enlargement movement three years after the foundation of the organization. Since then, the country, which has the second largest army in the organization after the U.S., has provided NATO a connection to the Middle East and Black Sea through straits, has also taken part in many peacekeeping missions.